Thriving in Quarantine

(With another bonus recipe at the end!)

I feel bad about it, but to be perfectly honest, my life has greatly improved since the quarantine began. I feel bad, because I know so many people are struggling. Jobs have been lost, people have gotten stuck separated from their families, people are getting sick and dying by the thousands around the world. Healthcare and service industry workers are putting in hours around the clock to keep whatever is left of this broken machine of society ticking so people like me can stay home and try not to come into contact with anyone else. My own family and friends are at risk in some ways that I am not. And here I am feeling better and more alive and driven and at peace than I have in many, many months. Talk about guilt.

Without commuting every day, I have more time in my mornings and evenings for “self care” (I hate that term, but it applies here), keeping up with friends and family, taking care of house work, and being creative–something I consider central to who I am and how I function in this world. Not to mention, I’m experiencing far less social anxiety, and a lot more positive, supportive social interaction (virtually) with friends as we reach out to each other and connect in genuine, compassionate ways. I’m eating better, resting better, moving more, meditating more, and feeling like I’m finally able to think ahead again, beyond my day-to-day.

It feels like such an awakening, in so many ways.

The “Before” image of my gardening space. My new plot will be to the left of the path. “After” photo will be posted later 🙂

I spent Sunday afternoon prepping my summer garden space, another one of those things I just haven’t had time for in the past. At this point, it feels like a necessity more than a hobby, though. With several acres of viable land for growing, we’re in good shape to produce a lot of food to store up and share with our community.

Pulling weeds from last year’s plot, I couldn’t help but feel I was cleaning out my own personal temple, my inner-self, as well. As I stripped back the thorny blackberry vines that had crept in over the winter, it felt like stripping away tendrils of trepidation and feelings of futility that had wrapped themselves around my heart, so small at first I didn’t even notice them growing there.

I pulled out tufts of grass, and found rich soil beneath, wriggling with earth worms and crowned with delicate little mushrooms. This is my temple, my garden. You may grow here if I say you can. Blackberries, you’re not allowed in. Grass, you can grow outside the plot. I’m happy to have my garden surrounded by the forest flora, in all its tangled, thorny, wild glory. But inside my garden, I choose what can grow here. Same as inside my temple, my Self.

Once I’d weeded my old plot, I began clearing an area on the other side of the path for a new plot. I’m doubling the size of my garden this year. Rather optimistic, seeing as how I know NOTHING about gardening and last year’s was quite a failure, but I’m determined and I believe that growing food is important. So I went to work, stripping back the blackberry brambles and pulling the weeds. I will use this time and this space to grow, to create new life, and to nourish myself and my community.

Dry wood storage in the cob towerhouse

After cutting some firewood (it’s supposed to be cold and rainy this week), I called it a day, took a shower, and commenced foraging in the kitchen for dinner.

I found an acorn squash in the drawer that I’ve been avoiding for about 3 weeks and had forgotten about, and found it had turned completely orange. Guess I have to do something with it now. I cut into it and found that it was still good inside, so I brushed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and threw it in the toaster oven for 30 minutes.

While it was cooking, I foraged around in the fridge and found some week-old rice that needed to be used up, as well as a smattering of other random food items. To my great surprise, it all came together beautifully into my own made-up recipe for stuffed squash, and one of the best dinners I’ve made in a long time! I’ll share the recipe below, if anyone wants to try it out.

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel a calmness presiding over me for the week ahead. It’s going to be fine. I am grateful to be able to work from home. I am grateful to have this time at home to nurture myself and my body and my soul. And while I know that the things happening in the world have been so terrible for some people, I am grateful that these events are bringing to light to the brokenness of our society. To the fact some people, like me, like some of my friends and colleagues, are doing better than they were before.

I hope that wherever you are, and however all this is affecting you, you can find the light in it, too. Take this time to clean out your temple. Make good food. Grow. Move. Rest. And wash your goddamn hands.

Stuffed Squash

Ingredients:

1 Acorn squash, cut in half
1 tbs olive oil (or however much you need to lightly coat both halves)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of cooked rice
1/2 yellow or red onion
2 tbs feta cheese
1/4 cup cheddar cheese (or any other cheese of your choice)
3/4 cup of cooked or frozen chopped veggies of your choice (carrots, broccoli, beans, peas, etc.)
1 handful dried cranberries
1 handful walnuts
2 tbs pepitas
Spices to taste: salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder
1/2 avocado

Optional side dish: skillet seared Brussels sprouts

Directions:

  1. Coat both sides of the acorn squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper (you could also add paprika), and place in the oven for 30 minutes to start. Check after 30 minutes, and give it another 10-15 minutes if the squash is still tough.
  2. While the squash is cooking, dice the half onion and cook it up in a small pan until fragrant and slightly translucent.
  3. Add in cooked rice. If the rice is especially dry, add a couple tablespoons of water, and keep stirring. Add in cheese, veggies, cranberries, walnuts, pepitas, and spices. Mixture should be soft and slightly gooey (add a little bit of water or cheese if it still feels too dry). Keep warm until the squash is ready.
  4. Once the squash is soft when you poke it with a fork (30-45 minutes), take it out of the oven, and stuff with the filling. Top with fresh diced avocado, and serve! I made a side of Brussels sprouts to go with it, and it was perfect.

Bon appetit!

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